Westminster Education Forum

Since lockdown, we have been organising our full programme of conferences online. We will continue online until further notice, to ensure we play our part in helping our employees and delegates to remain safe during this time. We are pleased that so many key stakeholders, policymakers and other interested parties - both old friends and new delegates - are taking up the opportunity to discuss public policy issues and network at our impartial seminars. New events are coming on to our conference programme all the time. So there are plenty of opportunities for you to join us if you haven’t already, from wherever you are. For booking-related queries, or information on speaking, please email us at info@forumsupport.co.uk or contact us using one of the following numbers: +44 (0)7951044809 / +44 (0)7503591880 / +44 (0)7538736244.
For delegates already booked on, we will send you the online joining instructions (including links, event numbers and passwords) five working days before your conference. If you cannot find these in your inbox please email delegate.relations@forumsupport.co.uk

Next steps for the Further Education sector in England - governance, accountability and ensuring quality provision

TO BE PUBLISHED October 2020

***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference will examine key current issues for further education in England.

We expect discussion on implications that the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to have for the sector, with many students still studying at home - and the recent phased re-opening of colleges for some students in key assessment years earlier in June.

With the DfE currently drafting a White Paper for further education, those attending will also assess way forward for funding and oversight of the sector, looking at:

  • capital investment in the FE sector - priorities for the future
  • financial sustainability - and collaboration between colleges and the impact of mergers and interventions
  • managing change - restructuring colleges, the future of the merger process and supporting the FE workforce
  • decision-making - the autonomy that colleges have on decisions relating to tackling local skills gaps and the qualifications that they choose to offer
  • preparing for the future - FE and the Fourth Industrial Revolution
  • FE and society - positioning colleges at the centre of their communities, and asserting their role in addressing local and national skills gaps

The discussion in detail:

The COVID-19 crisis - impact, what has been learned, and the way forward:

  • how colleges have adapted to maintaining provision during the pandemic
  • the future of delivery of teaching in the sector, with a potential move to more online or blended learning
  • the impact of the pandemic on the broader national industrial strategy and future skills gaps that the FE sector may be required to fill
  • potential implications of the likely reduction in international students, particularly in the short term
  • initial implementation of T Levels, with some colleges choosing to pause their implementation this September, and others preparing to teach the new qualifications from this September

Finance and collaboration:

  • the government approach to supporting and intervening to improve financial resilience and quality for colleges
  • how increased funding and new investment by government is being used by colleges, and how to maximise its impact going forward
  • ways that colleges are effectively working together, particularly in overcoming funding pressures and to improve provision
  • in light of capital investment commitments by the Government, how colleges can develop effective plans to ensure that the money is spent effectively

Mergers and oversight:

  • potential models for college governance, with suggestions that some colleges might be brought under state control
  • how colleges are adapting to the college oversight measures designed to improve the sustainability of the sector
  • the future of the merger process and whether structural changes resulting from area reviews have led to a more robust and sustainable college sector and improved learning experience
  • assessing steps taken by the FE Commissioner, such as structure and prospects appraisals (SPAs), in evaluating merger proposals and what can be learnt from the initial area review process


  • priorities for supporting the FE workforce and ensuring appropriate levels of expertise
  • recruitment and retention of future leaders

Contribution to the community and local economy:

  • how to cement the position of colleges as anchor institutions for their local communities, with Government recently urging colleges to engage with the £3.6bn Towns Fund in their local area
  • the development of specialist colleges to meet the needs of local economies
  • what local communities and employers should be able to expect from colleges
  • strategies for improving connections and collaboration between colleges and local businesses
  • the role colleges can play in tackling regional inequalities and improving local productivity through providing an effective lifelong learning service
  • the relationship between FE colleges and HE - including the future balance of funding and discussion on which sector should be providing which courses

Why this is relevant now - the context:

  • Expected publication of an FE White Paper by the Department for Education focusing on funding, skills and qualifications, institutional autonomy, developing a nationally collaborative but regionally focussed approach to FE across England, the workforce and careers
  • Recent commitment by government to funding for the sector with the aim of strengthening leadership and governance across FE through:
    • introduction of the College Collaboration Fund to support colleges working together to boost the quality of education and training on offer
    • investment in tailored CPD for college leaders and governors across a range of areas
  • The Budget which included commitments from Government including:
    • the introduction of a £600m-a-year National Skills Fund
    • a commitment of £1.8bn for capital investment in the FE estate
  • Further developments for consideration include:

The agenda:

  • An overview of the current FE landscape
  • Where will the DfE white paper take the college and FE sector - with David Hughes, Chief Executive Officer, Association of Colleges
  • Improving the oversight of colleges and adapting to the new insolvency regime - mergers, restructuring and sources of funding
  • Governance and accountability of FE colleges, implementing the new insolvency regime, and next steps for funding
  • Further education and the Fourth Industrial Revolution - with Paul McKean, Head of Further Education and Skills, Jisc
  • Enhancing FE provision in colleges - curriculum, careers advice and supporting progression, and learning from the impact of the pandemic and adapting to online delivery
  • The College of the Future - latest findings from the Independent Commission - with Lewis Cooper, Director, Independent Commission on the College of the Future

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders.

This one is no different. Places have been reserved by officials from the Department for Education; the National Audit Office and Department for International Trade.

This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference

Price: £95 PLUS VAT

Shortly after every Westminster Education Forum seminar, a briefing document is produced. This is distributed to all delegates on the day as well as to our policymaker contacts in government, and to stakeholders more widely.

A seminar publication provides a timely record of proceedings, and acts as a guide to the latest thinking on current policy issues for those unable to be at the event.

This publication includes


Contributions from keynotes and panellists, including accompanying slides*
*Subject to approval

Delegate Pack

Information from the day, including delegate list, biographies and agenda


Transcript of questions and comments posed to speakers from attending delegates


Supplementary articles from speakers
and delegates